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Good Cop–Bad Cop: Is Cavaliers-Warriors IV a Positive or Negative Thing for the NBA?

A spirited debate about whether or not we should want to watch Cleveland and Golden State play in the Finals for the fourth straight year

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers each climbed out of 3-2 holes in the conference finals to set up their fourth Finals meeting in a row. This is a Good Cop–Bad Cop argument for whether or not them meeting again is a good thing for the NBA or a bad thing for the NBA. Good Cop is arguing that it’s good. Bad Cop is arguing that it’s bad.

Bad Cop: The Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the fourth time in a row is a bad thing for the NBA.

Good Cop: No, it’s not.

Bad Cop: Yes, it is. And, frankly, I’m disappointed and basketball mad that it’s happening.

Good Cop: Wait. You’re ***mad*** about this? That’s a dumb thing to be basketball mad about.

Bad Cop: It’s not, though. I’m just very tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. Cavs-Warriors, Cavs-Warriors, Cavs-Warriors, Cavs-Warriors. It’s ridiculous.

Good Cop: No, it’s a rivalry. That’s how rivalries work. And rivalries are not only excellent, but they’re also crucial. The Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the ’80s sent basketball soaring into relevance, for just one example.

Bad Cop: Maybe. But Cavs-Warriors ain’t Celtics-Lakers. If it were, then that’d be great. But it’s not. Instead, it’s just two teams I’m tired of watching play each other.

Good Cop: That’s because you’re thinking about things wrong. Think on it like this: Do you remember that movie Blow? There’s a part where Boston George is on trial because he got caught crossing the border with 660 pounds of marijuana and was being charged with intent to distribute. The judge asks him how he pleads, he says that he’d actually like to say something first, she grants him permission, and then he stands up and says, “Well, in all honesty, I don’t feel that what I’ve done is a crime. And I think it’s illogical and irresponsible for you to sentence me to prison. Because when you think about it, what did I really do? I crossed an imaginary line with a bunch of plants.”

When you take a bird’s-eye view of the situation like that, what George is saying makes a lot of sense. Literally what he did was move actual plants from one part of the earth to another. That’s it. That’s all. Why should he be punished for that?

It’s the same sort of thing with the Cavs and the Warriors in the Finals again. Because, separate of all other things, the bird’s-eye view of the series is this: We’re going to watch the greatest basketball player of his generation (and possibly of every generation) play against one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled for a chance to be declared champion. It’s illogical and irresponsible for you to be upset about that. This is basketball of the highest order.

Bad Cop: OK, but there are two things wrong with your clever little comparison there.

Good Cop: And they are?

Bad Cop: First of all, I’m not a bird. I’m a human. And my human eyes are tired of watching the human-eye’s view of the Cavs and Warriors in the Finals.

Good Cop: I hate you.

Bad Cop: Second of all, I can’t help but notice you’re leaving off how that exchange between Boston George and the judge ends.

After George makes his argument that he shouldn’t be punished for attempting to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of weed across the border, the judge looks at him and smirks. “Gosh. You know, your concepts are really interesting, Mr. Young,” she says, now smiling broadly, and for an eighth of a second it feels like maybe she’s going to let him get away with it. Then, in the nicest and most devastating way possible, she drops a piano on his neck. “Unfortunately for you,” she continues, “the line you crossed was real and the plants you brought with you were illegal.” And then not long after that we see George in prison.

Good Cop: I can’t be certain, but I think you’re saying that Kevin Durant needs to be put in prison?

Bad Cop: What I’m saying is looking at the bird’s-eye view of situations is almost always bad. That’s how you end up in a Thanos situation where someone is arguing that killing off billions of people is a good idea because it’ll be helpful in the long run. That’s what this is. It’s no different. That judge knew then what you should know now: Putting a bad thing in a good package doesn’t suddenly turn the bad thing good.

Good Cop: I just don’t get what you’re saying. Who would you rather have in the Finals? Boston-Houston sounds like a good time to you?

Bad Cop: Not that, no. But Cavs-Rockets would’ve been cool. That’d have been fun to watch.

Good Cop: But that’s still the Cavs in the Finals.

Bad Cop: Well, yeah.

Good Cop: So then it’s not those guys you have the problem with? It’s the Warriors.

Bad Cop: That’s probably fair.

Good Cop: But why?

Bad Cop: I’m just bored of seeing the Warriors win all the time.

Good Cop: People say that a lot—the thing about the Warriors winning all the time, about how frustrating it is, and blah blah blah. But let me ask you a question: Do they? Do they really win all the time? Because how can they be this supposedly unstoppable and unbeatable team if they haven’t even won two championships in a row? Doesn’t that sound kind of dumb to you?

Bad Cop: They’re about to win their second in a row, though.

Good Cop: Sure. Probably they are. But they haven’t yet. And even if they do, why wasn’t this a problem when the Heat won two in a row? Or when Kobe’s Lakers won two in a row? Or when Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers won three in a row? Or when MJ’s Bulls won three in a row? Or when Isiah’s Pistons won two in a row? Or when Magic’s Lakers won two in a row? Why wasn’t it a problem then? Why is it only a problem now?

Bad Cop: Because the Warriors just feel more inevitable.

Good Cop: Come on.

Bad Cop: They do.

Good Cop: They feel more inevitable than how the 2001 Lakers felt when they played the Sixers? They feel more inevitable than how Jordan felt? He took his team to six out of eight Finals in a row, and he missed those two in the middle only because he retired for a bit, and out of those six Finals he never played even one Game 7. The Warriors feel more inevitable than MJ’s Bulls did?

Bad Cop: I mean, I don’t know. That was a long time ago.

Good Cop: It feels like there’s something else that’s really at the center of all of this. Because if the root of the concern is really that the Warriors feel too big and bad for anyone to handle anymore, then can I point out that the Rockets were just one game away from knocking them out of the playoffs? If Chris Paul had been available, the Rockets likely would have won that series. Hell, for that matter, if the Rockets didn’t inexplicably have one of their worst shooting nights of the year in Game 7, they likely would have won that series. And it’s not like the Warriors were playing this swarming, impenetrable defense. The Rockets had plenty of wide-open looks. They just missed them. The Rockets should’ve won that series.

Bad Cop: What about Iggy being out?

Good Cop: LOL. Sure. The Warriors got pushed to near elimination because they were missing their fifth-best player. Forget Durant, a former league MVP and the current second-best basketball player on the planet. And forget Steph, a two-time league MVP and the greatest shooter the world has ever known. And forget Draymond, a current All-Star. And forget Klay, possibly the deadliest quick trigger in the history of basketball. It was Iggy. It’s been Iggy this whole time. He’s their secret.

Bad Cop: You’re the worst.

Good Cop: But for real, you really can’t make the The Warriors Are Too Good argument anymore. If we don’t take anything else from these playoffs, we can take that. The Warriors are beatable now.

Bad Cop: But they’re not. You keep saying they’re beatable but they didn’t get beat.


Bad Cop: Remember in The Fast and the Furious when Brian nearly beat Dom in that first race when they were racing for money and pink slips?

Good Cop: Of course I do.

Bad Cop: Brian was laughing and pointing at Dom, talking about how he almost had him. And Dom was like, “You almost had me? You never had me. You never had your car.” That’s the Warriors. They have everyone’s car. And that’s just not appealing.

Good Cop: How are you even forming your mouth to say that?

Bad Cop: Because it’s true.

Good Cop: Are you telling me that Dominic Toretto is not appealing?

Bad Cop: I wasn’t likening the Warriors exactly to Dom, I was likening the Rockets “almost” beating the Warriors to the Brian “almost” beating Dom. Dom has never once lost a race in any of the Fast & Furious movies. It doesn’t matter how close anyone has ever gotten; the fact remains: He’s undefeated.

Good Cop: So we’re talking about dominance then? The general dominance of the Warriors is what bothers you?

Bad Cop: I guess so.

Good Cop: OK. I get that. But dominance is great. Because if a team is dominant, that means that, sooner or later, you’re going to get to watch that dominance end. And that’s one of the best kinds of sports feelings. Since we’re talking about movies, just treat it like that. Any really good villain in a movie is considered “really good” because they’re so hard to stop.

Bad Cop: But that’s the thing: There has to be a feeling that the villain can be stopped. Going into the season, everybody sort of knew that the Warriors were going to win the title this year, right? And that kind of inevitability is rarely fun. If they’d have lost to the Rockets, it likely would’ve felt like the NBA had found its way back to a version of itself where a season’s outcome hadn’t already been determined before the first jump ball. That’s why, say, the Cavs-Rockets Finals would’ve been better for the NBA. The Warriors didn’t lose, though. The Warriors being in the Finals again means we’re still in that spot.

Good Cop: Yeah, I remember people saying that early in the season—the thing about the Warriors being unbeatable. They said the same thing in 2016. Do you remember 2016? That was the year after the Warriors won their first title and lots of people were talking about how they were going to do it again. Do you remember how that season ended? Because I do. It ended with them … wait for it … hold on … almost there … it ended with them not winning.

Bad Cop: They weren’t even as good then as they are now.


Bad Cop: But they didn’t have Durant.

Good Cop: I don’t follow.

Bad Cop: That’s the difference. They have him now. He’s the difference. It felt different before he arrived. The Warriors felt … I don’t know … almost like there was something magical about them. And even if the Warriors weren’t your team, you could at least appreciate them for that. For the magic. But that’s not the case now. They feel clinical. They feel like … did you ever see that video that was circulating around the internet two months ago that showed a robot shooting 100 percent from the field on a basketball court? That’s what they feel like now. If you see a human shoot 100 percent from the field (like what Klay did in that one brilliant and incredible quarter when he lit up the Kings for 37 points in, like, under 10 minutes), it always feels incredible and surreal. If you watch a robot do it, it’s just like, “Well, duh. It’s a fucking robot.” That’s the Warriors. No matter how many titles they win in a row, it’ll never feel special. They stole that feeling from us when they signed Durant. They’re guilty of theft. They’ve thieved away basketball magic.

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Good Cop: Wait, so that’s really what’s going on here? That’s what’s at the center of all of this?

Bad Cop: [shrugs]

Good Cop: The Warriors beating everyone was fine back when they felt organic and real, but now they’re all souped-up and big-guns-heavy with KD and so their wins feel metallic and impersonal?

Bad Cop: [shrugs]

Good Cop: And that’s what you don’t like?

Bad Cop: I guess.

Good Cop: Well, my friend, then we’re right back to where we started.

Bad Cop: How’s that?

Good Cop: That’s a dumb thing to be upset about.

Bad Cop: No, it’s not. It’s the only good thing to be upset about, actually.

Good Cop: Nope. Wrong. The Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the fourth time in a row is not a bad thing for the NBA. It’s a good thing. It’s legacy-building. Enjoy the excellence.

Bad Cop: I will not. Because it’s bad for the NBA.

Good Cop: No, it’s not.

Bad Cop: Yes, it is.